A Change in Plans

Building and working out of one’s home is common in our business. It is also a family tradition. My dad had a home office when I was growing up and he finished his career from his home office. I have worked from my home since my dad retired in 1989, until the market crashed in 2006; I had enough projects going at one time to maintain a steady stream of prospects. As the market has slowed, I have fewer homes under construction and less visibility.

In my July 2009 column, “Do you want this exposure,” I shared my thoughts about opening a showroom/office in a retail location on Main Street in my hometown. A brief recap: In 1999 I bought one of the oldest commercial buildings in Mendham, N.J., the town I live in. It was built in 1867 at the crossroads of what are presently four affluent suburbs. According to a recent county road report, 17,000 cars a day pass the building, and with the omnipresent red light holding up traffic, a certain percentage of those drivers are forced to stop and look around and see my building. Grant Homes will be open for business at One Main Street by May 2010.

Now we all know that this 2010 economy is about surviving and many are admiring the few who are prospering. Allocating scarce cash resources on growth is wise if you are able and if you spend it wisely. So I have diligently researched and reflected on the best use of the space and on how to minimize my investment and risk while maximizing the opportunity.

After hiring a marketing firm, Fiore Associates, and an accomplished local architect, Jim O’Brien, I had a business plan and a blueprint of how I wanted to develop the space. My plan included inviting multiple collaborative partners to showcase their existing companies in half of my space. After hosting many owners of businesses related to my custom building and remodeling company, I had commitments from two suppliers … a window manufacturer and a millwork company. Prior to commencing fit-up, I updated my budgets for start-up and projected first-year operating costs. Upon review, I decided to simplify my plan and shed the responsibility to maintain retail hours and staffing thereof. I told both partners of my change in plans and gave them both the choice of severing the relationship. Amicably, the window manufacturer dropped out, and the millwork owner took over the responsibility for manning his own space.

An essential ingredient of our plan is to host as many events as possible. We have planned an architect-led lecture series for homeowners, invitation-only lunches for friends at which we will feature a “designer of the month,” and other gatherings to increase awareness of who we are, what I do and what my custom millwork partner can create. Half of the space will be to display product and the other half is being built out in a clubroom environment, replete with a living room, fireplace and state-of-the-art conference room.

I invited an audio/visual home theater company to provide an array of smart home technologies in exchange for granting him access to the space during all hosted events and for limited use as a showroom for his prospect meetings.

Parts of our preopening marketing efforts have included redesigning my company logo to emphasize the addition of our remodeling division. Then we examined our website and our reputation as a luxury new home builder, which we know has hurt our efforts to secure remodeling leads. We are in the process of creating a new, totally separate website at granthomesmendham.com that will emphasize remodeling.

I am certain my company will have increased visibility and that I will be making many new business acquaintances. I know that when buyers return to the marketplace and are ready to spend, I will be in business and ready to design and build. Bring it on!.

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